WASHINGTON (Jul. 10)
Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir was urged by a visiting U.S. senator last week to be more forthcoming on his plan for Palestinian elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), who was one of a number of U.S. lawmakers to meet with the prime minister, said he told Shamir it is “important for the government to regain the sense of initiative” that Shamir “established when he presented his plan for elections on the West Bank” in May 1989.
U.S.-Israeli talks over convening a meeting in Cairo between Israel and Palestinian representatives broke down earlier this year, when Israel would not agree to meet with a delegation that included Palestinians who had been deported from Israel or those residing in East Jerusalem.
Lieberman said he told Shamir he had to “come up with a better explanation why that made it impossible” to hold such a meeting, or to reformulate Israel’s conception of “the membership of the delegation.”
He said that Israel is reluctant to talk to certain Palestinians because it might prejudice the future negotiations over East Jerusalem.
AN IMPROVEMENT IN RELATIONS
But Lieberman said that the “question of Jerusalem’s status and the right of return are a long way from being decided. These should not be reasons not to go to Cairo.”
He said that Israel could always “leave the table” at the talks if it is unhappy with the results.
Lieberman also met last week with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, whom he described as “committed to the peace process,” although “skeptical of whether there was movement in the Shamir government.”
“There’s not going to be peace without him, because he’s the only one who speaks to everyone in the region,” Lieberman said.
The senator also had positive words to say about Israel’s new foreign minister, David Levy, whom he described as “eloquent,” even though he does not speak English.
“More important,” said Lieberman, is that he is “the first Israeli foreign minister who speaks Arabic.”
Another U.S. lawmaker who visited Israel last week said he was encouraged by Secretary of State James Baker’s plans to meet in Paris next week with Levy, if the foreign minister is well enough to travel.
Rep. Lawrence Smith (D-Fla.) reported that the Likud government sees the planned Baker meeting as sign that recently strained relations with the United States have begun to improve.
Smith and two colleagues, Reps. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), met with Shamir in Jerusalem last Thursday.
Smith said Shamir and top ministers were unhappy to learn that the U.S. public was unaware that very few Palestinians have been killed by Israeli soldiers in recent months and that the intifada has “cooled.”
Smith said he recommended a few “confidence-building measures” Israel could take to improve relations with the United States.
For example, he asked Israeli to consider entering a joint venture with the United States to build prefabricated homes for Soviet immigrants in Israel.
By creating jobs in the United States, such a project would show “return gratitude” for the $400 million in loan guarantees recently approved by Congress to build housing for the emigres.
Smith said he also asked Israeli government to comply with a U.S. government extradition request for two suspects of the 1985 pipe bomb explosion at the Santa Ana, Calif., office of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. The explosion killed Alex Odeh, the committee’s West Coast regional director.